Next up in the series of Top 5 Influential Guitarists is one of my personal favourite guitar players, Nick Johnston. Nick has a real style of his own with amazing chops and instantly recognisable melodies so I really wanted to know which guitarists had helped to inspire his techniques and compositions.
1. Paul Gilbert
I was 16 when I got a copy of Racer X’s ‘Street Lethal’. I remember, clear as day, jumping ahead to a song called ‘Loud and Clear’ and feeling my jaw slacken. Paul was my absolute favourite guitar player for many years. He is so unbelievably good, so naturally gifted, that it’s almost unfair. The more I learned about Paul, the more I liked him. Obviously he’s one of the most incredible guitar players on the face of the planet, but the thing that always blew me away was how damn good of a songwriter he is. I have many fond memories listening to Paul Gilbert playing guitar. Recently, I had a chance to work with Paul. He recorded some guest solo’s on a song called ‘Trick Question’, off of my second record, ‘In A Locked Moon On The Moon’. I can’t even begin to tell you how special that was for me!
2. Eddie Van Halen
I really got into Eddie’s playing when I was about 18, which was long after I had started listening to a lot of the big 80’s Shrapnel Records guitar virtuosi. Eddie was different. Eddie was raw, unchained and reckless. Up until that point, I had been listening to records where the lead guitars were all meticulously recorded to the point where it was almost unbelievable that a human being could re-create some of those lines. When I discovered Eddie, everything about his playing was exciting. His tone, touch, vibrato, sense of melody and rhythm were so different than anything I had heard up until that point. A lot of people talk about EVH’s tapping and speed, but they often overlook his jaw-dropping blues and swing playing. For me, Eddie is the perfect balance of technicality and musicality. He has had an incredible influence on me.
3. Stevie Ray Vaughan
I remember the first time I heard SRV was in my dad’s car. He was listening to SRV’s ‘In Step’ and I was absolutely mesmerised. I had never heard a Stratocaster sound that huge, raw and that clean at the same time. I had always associated the blues with guitar players like B.B King, Albert King and Buddy Guy. As much as I loved their playing, it was Stevie that really turned me on to that genre. Every single time I pick up my guitar, I find myself wishing I could play like him. Stevie is also one of the main reasons I play a Stratocaster – I desperately wanted sound and look as cool as him!
4. Yngwie Malmsteen
The first time I heard Yngwie was life changing. It was a song called ‘Vengeance’, off of his Magnum Opus record and it completely shattered my idea of what you could do with an electric guitar. I was fortunate enough to see him live during the formative years of my guitar playing. I saw him on the G3 ’03 tour and It was the single most exciting thing I had ever experienced. There is no question – Yngwie is about as good as it gets. He has had an enormous impact on my guitar playing, to the point where I would sound NOTHING like I do now without his influence. I may sound nothing like Yngwie, but the fury and passion in his playing have been two of the many things I constantly try to develop in my own way.
5. Jeff Beck
Jeff Beck, to me, is the greatest living electric guitar player. I can’t even begin to figure out what he is doing with his guitar, or where his mind goes when he picks up his instrument – and I love that. When Jeff plays his guitar, every single note is exactly where it needs to be. A strong Intuition is one of the most important qualities a musician can hope to have, and Jeff has the strongest of any guitar player I’ve ever heard. I think there are few people who have gone beyond just playing their instrument and I believe Beck is one of them. He has completely transcended just ‘playing the guitar’ and truly speaks with his instrument. I hope to one day be as accomplished as him!
Keep an eye on Guitar Noize for a review of Nick Johnston’s new album which is coming soon and features Bryan Beller on Bass, Marco Minnemann on drums and guest solos from Guthrie Govan!
In the meantime I will leave you with this video where Nick Johnston plays through his track ‘Even If It Takes A Lifetime’ taken from his last album ‘In A Locked Room On The Moon’: